Where danger lurks
Olivier Blanchard 03 October 2014
Before the 2008 crisis, the mainstream worldview among US macroeconomists was that economic fluctuations were regular and essentially self-correcting. In this column, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard explains how this benign view of fluctuations took hold in the profession, and what lessons have been learned since the crisis. He argues that macroeconomic policy should aim to keep the economy away from ‘dark corners’, where it can malfunction badly.
Until the 2008 global financial crisis, mainstream US macroeconomics had taken an increasingly benign view of economic fluctuations in output and employment. The crisis has made it clear that this view was wrong and that there is a need for a deep reassessment.
The benign view reflected both factors internal to economics and an external economic environment that for years seemed indeed increasingly benign.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
macroeconomics, global crisis, great moderation, rational expectations, nonlinearities, fluctuations, business cycle, monetary policy, inflation, bank runs, deposit insurance, sudden stops, capital flows, liquidity, maturity mismatch, zero lower bound, liquidity trap, capital requirements, credit constraints, precautionary savings, housing boom, Credit crunch, unconventional monetary policy, fiscal policy, sovereign default, diabolical loop, deflation, debt deflation, financial regulation, regulatory arbitrage, DSGE models
Banks, government bonds, and default: What do the data say?
Nicola Gennaioli, Alberto Martin, Stefano Rossi 19 July 2014
There is growing concern – but little systematic evidence – about the relationship between sovereign default and banking crises. This column documents the link between public default, bank bondholdings, and bank loans. Banks hold many public bonds in normal times (on average 9% of their assets), particularly in less financially developed countries. During sovereign defaults, banks increase their exposure to public bonds – especially large banks, and when expected bond returns are high. At the bank level, bondholdings correlate negatively with subsequent lending during sovereign defaults.
Recent events in Europe have illustrated how government defaults can jeopardise domestic bank stability. Growing concerns of public insolvency since 2010 caused great stress in the European banking sector, which was loaded with Euro-area debt (Andritzky 2012). Problems were particularly severe for banks in troubled countries, which entered the crisis holding a sizeable share of their assets in their governments’ bonds – roughly 5% in Portugal and Spain, 7% in Italy, and 16% in Greece (2010 EU Stress Test).
sovereign debt, financial crises, banking, banks, bonds, sovereign default, credit, bank lending, risk-weighting
Fiscal discipline in the monetary union
Charles Wyplosz 26 November 2012
For the euro to survive, the recession must be halted without piling on more debt. This column argues that the unpalatable conclusion is that public debts must be written down. The massive moral hazard problem this will cause must be dealt with by making sure that public debts will never again be allowed to grow to unsustainable levels. To this end, decentralised US-style fiscal discipline is needed.
Three years into the Eurozone crisis and public debts are still rising, including in the three countries currently subject to rescue programmes. More countries – Spain and Italy for sure, France quite possibly – are inching towards rescues. These nations have three things in common:
- They share the common currency;
- Their economies are in recession; and
- They have adopted austerity policies.
They are also trapped in a ‘circle of impossibilities’.
sovereign default, Eurozone crisis, debt restructuring
Learning from past crises: Into the safety zone
Caroline Van Rijckeghem, Beatrice Weder di Mauro 25 September 2012
Lessons from the past suggest democracies with strong economic fundamentals do not default on their debt. This column suggests high growth and low deficits are key but that growing discontent as the result of austerity may be the most important factor yet in influencing the probability of default. Eurozone countries, therefore, need to build a higher safety buffer of good fundamentals to ensure safety from default.
Since the lost decade of the 1980s a rich literature on financial crises has evolved, including a theoretical literature which emphasised the potential for self-fulfilling expectations within a zone of vulnerability (e.g. Krugman 1996). The empirical counterpart of this literature focused on the probability of crisis given fundamentals, but did not try to delineate the zone of vulnerability, or the complementary safety zone.
EU policies International finance
sovereign default, EZ crisis, sovereign debt crises
Contagion during the Greek sovereign debt crisis
Jakob de Haan, Mark Mink 23 February 2012
Since 2010, Eurozone countries have engaged in unprecedented rescue operations to avoid contagion from a potential Greek sovereign default. This column argues that news about Greek public finances does not affect Eurozone bank stock prices, while news about a Greek bailout does. This suggests that markets consider news about a Greek bailout to be a signal of Eurozone countries’ willingness to use public funds to combat the financial crisis.
In the course of 2010, the financial problems of Greece became so severe that the Eurozone countries together with the IMF agreed to provide emergency loans for a total amount of €110 billion, to be disbursed over the period May 2010 through June 2013. In addition, the European Financial Stability Facility was created, which issues bonds fully guaranteed by Eurozone countries and, after an enlargement in 2011, can provide up to €440 billion in financial support to distressed member states.
Financial markets International finance
banks, Greece, sovereign default, news
They still don’t get it
Charles Wyplosz 25 October 2011
UPDATED: EZ leaders are working on a plan to save the euro. This column updates the column posted on 22 August 2011 by evaluating the steps EZ leaders took this weekend. Things don’t look good. By rejecting any major role for the ECB, leaders have guaranteed that any package will be too little too late. After all, imagine what the US crisis package in 2008 would have looked like if the Fed had refused to use its massive firepower to stabilise markets.
Editor's note: This column updates the column originally posted on 8 August 2011.
ECB, sovereign default, Eurozone crisis
Greece and the fiscal crisis in the Eurozone
The Editors 12 October 2010
The saga of Greece’s public finances continues, and it is not the only country whose fiscal sustainability is in doubt. This column introduces a new Policy Insight by Willem Buiter and Ebrahim Rahbari that analyses the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone and the response of the national authorities, EU institutions, and IMF.
The saga of the Greek public finances continues. But this time, Greece is not the only country that suffers from doubts about the sustainability of its fiscal position. Quite the contrary. The public finances of most countries in the Eurozone are in a worse state today than at any time since the industrial revolution, except for wartime episodes and their immediate aftermaths. And the problems are not confined to the Eurozone, extending to other EU member states, like the UK and Hungary, Japan, and the US.
eurozone, bail-out, sovereign default, fiscal sustainability
It takes less than a sovereign default to cause instability
Fabio Panetta, Giuseppe Grande 07 August 2010
The spectre of sovereign default looming over the world economy represents a major threat to economic stability. This column argues that, even without a fully-fledged debt crisis, the deterioration of public finances in major countries could trigger an increase in long-term interest rates and jeopardise the recovery.
According to many commentators a sovereign default could be the next stage of the crisis (Reinhart 2010, Rogoff 2010 and Reinhart and Rogoff 2010). Indeed, the Greek crisis has highlighted the potential contagion effects of a sovereign default. Actually, it would take much less than a large-scale debt crisis to generate instability.
Global crisis Global economy
Debt crisis, Fiscal crisis, sovereign default, Eurozone crisis
The costs of sovereign default: Theory and reality
Ugo Panizza, Eduardo Borensztein 06 May 2010
For the last 50 years sovereign defaults only concerned developing countries. The recent predicaments of Greece have raised the spectre of a default in a high-income country. This column argues exchange-rate depreciation has helped shrink the costs of default and spur economic recovery in past episodes. As part of the Eurozone, Greece may pay a steep cost if it were to default.
Sovereign debt is different. Private debt contracts can be enforced in court and court rulings enforced by asset seizures. By contrast, public-debt creditors:
Europe's nations and regions Global crisis
Greece, sovereign default